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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Kata No. 1

Kata No 1 Reframing

We all get stuck in ruts – we all get bogged down. Here are 10 ways to reframe the communications task to get you out of the rut.

1. How would a consumer describe the task – well we have to start here don’t we?  If you haven’t already done this then I suggest a career review – this is after all what planners are called on to do day in day out. A related question found on many creative briefs is What would you expect the consumer to do, think and feel as a result of this communication? And check out 3. which is close.

2. How would the MD or the finance director client-side describe the task – how is this supposed to make money? It is often worth on a creative brief clearly separating the business from the communications objectives.  Partly to stop the client thinking you are going to achieve a business objective – e.g.. increase market share with a communication strategy – e.g. challenge audience perceptions of a product. Partly because if you’re not careful you write a comms strategy that won’t deliver a business objective even when it does what it is designed to do. A variant on this reframe would be How will this help to get my client promoted?  But that would be too cynical dear reader..

3. How does it feel the first time? Otherwise described as An adolescents or first impressions model. Or what Zen monks call Beginners mind. It is that heightened sensibility you feel as a tourist  in a new country.  You pick up on sounds tastes and smells. In retrospect you will realise that you didn’t pick up on most of what was happening. You didn’t understand it.  But the first impressions were vivid and lasted.  This applies to more markets than you might imagine including the internet and the mobile phone.  When markets are young and everyone is on the starting line or close to it.  The point is that 1 touch speed dialling is a more significant discovery than a grasp of obscure insider jargon.  Get good at this.  Clients are terrible at it because they are usually experts in their field.  There are limitations to expertise and this is one of them.  Cultivate beginner’s mind (grasshopper!)

4. What scripted behaviours am I trying to produce? We are in the terrain of the behavioural psychologists here. This isn’t just about buying the product.  It is about encouraging a behaviour pattern that is rewarding and keeps on rewarding the punter every time they do it.  What can you suggest they do that will make them feel good? Loyalty cards and Airmiles live or die by this but you don’t need a database to do it.  Tango do it very well Remember Midland Are you the listening Bank?. I once went into a Midland brand and delivered the script word for word because I had just had a row with Nat West.  The script made it a doddle to say what it wanted making it a cinch for the counter staff to close the sale. If you haven’t a script in mind you may just be messing with their heads. In which case they may not do anything.  Or they may do something you hadn’t expected.

5. What cultural practices am I drawing on? Cultural anthropology.  Yes you can do it yes it’s fun, yes there are a few research agencies are qualified to help you on this one.  You have to be careful with culture because it tends towards the generic – its where all the competition are aiming as well.  But if you find an odd segment it is very powerful because the script (see 4. above) has been planted and enforced.  Crown Paints once commissioned Desmond Morris aka Naked Ape to to a study on home decoration titled The Human Nestbuilders.  I have the report – a treasured possession.  While a lot of it is a hoot – just what is the connection between my choice of magnolia and my ancestors daubing paint in Lascaux or the Olduvai gorge and while I shan’t be telling you about how the drapes in the boudoir support my personal courtship rituals you may find it helpful if you have got stuck between baikal green and killearney emerald. Nuff said!

6. Who else is involved and how does the group fit together? – the sociological perspective.  No man (or woman) is an island. Many purchases can only be interpreted in terms of groups whatever poor devil ends up standing in front of the facings exercising human choice.  Wherever kids are involved – where do the parents figure? In any B2B purchase what is the buying unit? It has been shown that babies are at least as proactive as mums in initiating play and communication – dyadic it’s called.  But you know all that.  Where it gets interesting is that this applies just as much where the solitary consumer appears to be buying just for themselves.  And even the most inner directed individual may well be modelling themselves on the tastes and preferences of other inner directed individuals they admire.  Just a few weeks ago someone who had done voluntary work overseas was telling me how literally she had been imitated by later volunteers she spoke to. Her own experiences were taken as normative and replicated.

7. Where do the lines of power run? Not the same as 6. the sociological structure this is about who is telling who what to do.  Traditionally the communications have set themselves up as a key authority (though these days the punters are less willing to tolerate this). This is often where transactional analysis is wheeled in.  The TA ideal is that communications should be adult to adult.  What is more common is that the adult goes into child mode and relinquishes control expecting to be told what to do.  I used this some years ago with air travel.  For all kinds of practical reasons an airline can’t afford for their business passengers to behave in the way they behave on the ground with their laptops on, and  their mobiles fully in use. So the airline gets parental, talks down to them and offers to pamper them – the tone here has to be carefully chosen – i.e. not patronising, the intent is that the punter relinquishes control temporarily to have it restored when they get on the ground again.  Clearly there is an opportunity here for any airline that finds the means to keep business passengers in adult mode all the way if they so choose.

8. How does the way the consumer process information affect their understanding of the message? NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming has become very trendy.  People are biased in their processing of information. They incline towards visual, audio or touch.  More interestingly the language within certain markets tends towards the visual, audio or the tactile.  So by tilting your creative approach you should increase the effectiveness of your communication.  I nearly persuaded Franklin Mint once to test a direct mail piece using tactile copy on the grounds that collectors of pewter/china memorabilia were more likely to respond to touchy feely copy. Pride of ownership is only half the story. It’s about something precious you can touch.  Franklin never did it.  So I’m giving the idea away!

9. What are the symbolic communication conventions of this particular market? – yup we had to get to semiotics sooner or later.  Although the language of semiotics is mostly obscure the idea is simple enough: that the concepts and imagery are highly structured so by deconstructing them and reconstructing them differently you can play the game within a category but still stand out.  I have worked with a Japanese car brand in recent years and find it extremely helpful to look at the conventions of car advertising and particularly those favoured by German marques.  The point is that by unconsciously adopting these,  newcomers like the Japanese frequently come across as me-too brands with little new to communicate.  And I still remember blowing a creds meeting with Nokia by commenting (innocently I thought) on how how their name and brochure seemed far more Asian than Scandinavian.

10. What mythical /big picture stories could I borrow to build up my story?  You can resort to Jungian archetypes arguably most advertising does this anyway – it is how European minds at any rate decode our identities but I didn’t mean to be as esoteric as that.  Tango Black Currant Sebastian perfectly picked up on the Where are we on Europe? issue just before the last election.  There have been a couple of spoofs of Government ministers caught out in news conferences raising the issue How much further are we willing to be spun?   At the time of writing we have had a succession of  “plagues” devastate the farming community in this country, currently Foot and Mouth.  How does this feeling of being embattled with successive crises translate itself in the national consciousness.  Is there a way of identifying this and linking your brand to it?



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